Aug. 2, 2005 – As Congress readied to head home for the summer recess, a Texas Republican introduced a bill that would put the controversial Minuteman group and other civilian-led efforts to enforce immigration laws officially under the aegis of state executives.
Last Thursday, Representative John Culberson and 47 other legislators introduced the Border Protection Patrol Act, H.R.3622. The measure would give governors of states bordering Canada or Mexico the power to officially deputize groups of citizens to hunt down people immigrating illegally.
Collectively, the groups would form the Border Protection Corps, and would be empowered to "use any means and any force authorized by State law to prevent individuals from unlawfully entering the United States," according to the language of the bill. Each stateâ€™s Corps would be under control of the governor, who, under the proposed legislation, would be "authorized to call United States citizens into service in the militia."
Two weeks ago, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner floated the idea of designating anti-immigrant vigilante groups an "auxiliary" arm of the Border Patrol, an idea immediately denied by the Department of Homeland Security.
In a statement announcing the billâ€™s introduction, Culberson called for $6.8 billion in funds from the Department of Homeland Security to be used for "Border Protection Corps operations and the costs of detaining, housing and transporting foreign nationals taken into custody by the Corps or by state and local law enforcement."
The bill proposes funding the effort entirely with DHS money. In addition, it calls for all unspent DHS appropriations to be transferred to an account designated for operations by citizen militias after two years.
News of the proposed law spurred criticism from an immigrant rights group, and, surprisingly, from members of the Minuteman movement, the Associated Press reported Friday.
Roger Rocha, Texas state director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told the AP, "Forming militias or condoning militias is not the right answer." He also warned lawmakers that their support of the measure "could critically jeopardize the Hispanic vote."
An operative with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Gary Cole, told the AP that the measure would be like "adding more bandages to an already failed system."
The Minutemen and similar groups have been growing in numbers and spreading throughout the countryâ€™s border states. Their growth is meeting with increasing opposition.
Also last week, citing racist behavior and a lack of proper organization within the movement, the leader and founder of the Texas Minutemen stepped down. In resigning, prominent Minuteman Bill Parmley told reporters he could not tolerate remarks by other members suggesting immigrants should be shot or left to die in the desert.